2020-21 Back-To-School Plan

 

Darlington County School Board Announces Transition to In-Person School

Sept. 14, 2020

At their September meeting, the Darlington County Board of Education voted 6-1 to transition traditional students from eLearning to in-person learning, beginning on Sept. 21. Elementary students enrolled in face-to-face schools will attend classes in person five days a week. Middle and high school face-to-face students will use an A-B schedule to attend school in-person two days a week and continue with eLearning for the remaining three days. Students enrolled in the Darlington County Virtual Academy will continue their virtual lessons uninterrupted. The decision is based on the trend of declining COVID-19 cases in the county, as reported by DHEC.

“Over the past few weeks, the reports have indicated that the numbers of infections and cases are declining in Darlington County,” said Warren Jeffords, chairman of the Darlington County Board of Education. “We are eager to get students safely back to in-person learning. Other schools and districts around us have returned successfully. We have the safety procedures in place and we will strictly enforce them. We believe our students learn best in a classroom and we want to provide them that opportunity in a safe manner.”

Beginning Sept. 21, elementary school students will return to face-to-face learning in the school buildings five days a week.  Based on the number of students in the buildings, the district is confident social distancing guidelines can be maintained to ensure students’ ability to safely attend school in person five days a week.

Middle and high school students will move to an A/B in-person schedule on Sept. 21.  They will attend in-person school two days each week and participate in eLearning on the three days they are not in the building. Half the students will attend school in-person on Monday and Wednesday (“A group”). The other half will attend school in person on Tuesday and Thursday (“B group”). On the days the students are not in school, they will have eLearning. By splitting the student bodies of the middle and high schools in half, the lower numbers of students will allow for proper social distancing, creating a safe environment for students and staff. Middle and high school students will be notified of their assigned in-person days by their school this week.

K-12 students enrolled in self-contained special education classes will return to face-to-face school five days a week, beginning Sept. 21.

The district has outlined numerous safety practices and procedures in their Back-to-School guide. These include

  • Encouraging students and staff to stay home when sick.

  • All staff and students will be required to wear masks covering nose and mouth while in the schools and on the buses.

  • High touch areas (doorknobs, handles, etc.) will be sanitized daily.

  • Restrooms will be cleaned throughout the day.

  • Students and staff will maintain proper social distancing.

  • Desks will be adequately spaced.

  • No visitors will be permitted beyond the front office.

  • Students will be taught and reminded of proper hand-washing. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the building.

  • Sharing of items that are difficult to clean or disinfect will be discouraged.

  • Desks will face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or students will sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.

  • Schools will provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure social distancing and create a safe traffic flow.

  • Signage about COVID-19 symptoms, preventing spreading germs, hand washing, etc. will be placed strategically throughout school and district buildings.

  • Drinking fountains will be used to refill water bottles ONLY. Students are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.

  • Classrooms and high traffic areas will be stocked with cleaner, paper towels and hand sanitizer.

  • Health offices will be managed to provide appropriate isolation of sick students or staff.

The Board members believe it’s important to return to in-person school because students learn best in face-to-face settings. Board members also discussed the burden eLearning placed on working families and the need to provide socio-emotional support for students and staff during the pandemic.

“We would not move to in-person school if we did not believe we could do so as safely as possible,” said Jeffords. “Together we will work to provide a safe learning environment for our students and staff.”

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A Letter From Our Superintendent, Dr. Tim Newman


Aug. 25, 2020

Dear DCSD families:

Last night the Darlington County Board of Education voted to begin the school year online for the first two weeks for all students. This was not the school beginning we all hoped to have. We believe most students work best in a face-to-face school setting, and we hope to return to that as soon as possible. Unfortunately, while the COVID-19 numbers are decreasing across the state, our county’s numbers and metrics are too high to begin in-person school safely. The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority. We will reevaluate the situation in two weeks with the hopes of bringing our students back into our buildings.

We waited as long as possible to make a decision because we hoped the numbers would allow us to attend school in person. Unfortunately, that just isn’t possible. We recognize this presents a significant challenge to our families. We are seeking solutions for this problem. For example, we are working with community and faith-based organizations to create community learning centers for small groups of students whose parents work during the day.

Parents and students can expect eLearning to be vastly different than the emergency distance learning implemented this past spring. Teachers will engage with students regularly and post live and recorded lessons, as well as monitor student attendance, progress, and course engagement through online hubs, such as SeeSaw and Schoology. Some classes will require students to connect through a phone call or internet access to participate in class. We do not intend to distribute any paper packets this year. We recognize some families have limited internet access and are working to help address those issues. More information about eLearning will be coming soon.

The state requires us to add five LEAP days to the beginning of the school year for students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. These first five days of school will be used to assess students to determine where they are and what they need to achieve success this year. K-8 students will only need to attend school on the one LEAP day they are assigned in order to take the tests, pick up their devices and get information about eLearning.

Your child’s school will notify you of your child’s LEAP day. Students only need to attend school on the LEAP day they are assigned.

• September 8 – half of the Darlington County Virtual Academy students
• September 9 – the remaining Darlington County Virtual Academy students
• September 10 – half of each school’s student body
• September 11 – the other half of each school’s student body

So this is what the beginning of the school year will look like for our students:

• Grades 9-12: Students will begin virtual or eLearning classes on Sept. 8.
• Grades K-8: Students will attend one LEAP day the first week, then begin eLearning classes on Monday, Sept. 14.

We will be providing meals to our students during our eLearning days, as we have done in the past. More information will be coming soon.

On Sept. 8, the district will review the DHEC data and medical community recommendations. We will decide whether to continue eLearning for all or transition into face-to-face instruction. The decision we make on Sept. 8 will go into effect on Sept. 21. When our county’s COVID-19 numbers go down to a medium level, as defined by DHEC, our students will be able to return to school. At that time, our elementary school students will go to school five days a week in person. There are fewer elementary school students in a building, and we can easily accommodate them within social distance guidelines. Our middle and high school students will come back on a A/B schedule where students attend school in person two or three days a week and use eLearning the remaining days. We will use an A/B schedule at the middle and high schools to reduce the number of students in the buildings at one time. Ultimately, our goal is to get all of our students back in the buildings, five days a week face-to-face, as soon as safely possible.

Please know, this is not how we hoped to begin the school year. I urge everyone to follow safety guidelines – wear masks, wash your hands, observe social distancing, and stay home if you are sick – so that together we can get the numbers down and our students can return to school.

Sincerely,

Tim A. Newman, Ed.D.
Superintendent
Darlington County School District




The 2020-2021 Darlington County School District Reentry Plan

The district reentry plan was created with input from staff, teachers, parents, principals, students, medical practitioners, and district officials. Together they  shaped the district’s plan by asking questions, reviewing guidelines, providing feedback, and recommending possible solutions.  The board and administration are appreciative of feedback and support of our community.

This situation is fluid. In some cases,  plans may change to accommodate new guidelines or changing health situations. In other areas, plans are not yet concrete because they are dependent on final registration numbers for both in-person and virtual. The district will continue to update this webpage with information as it becomes available.